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Friday, February 19, 2010

Have you ever heard this story before?

1:27:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments

The management within a company finds it needs to replace their existing, custom developed ERP system with a modern standard ERP system. A major ERP vendor brings their best sales people to a meeting with the management, equipped to the teeth with the most impressive product PowerPoint slide decks they could up-bring (that is, bullet-rich slides with a lot of interconnected 3D boxes that makes the ERP seem very advanced and capable).

The sales people manage to convince the company management to buy the most expensive license of their ERP system. All modules they could possible use, and a few more, are included in the price. As an extra bonus, the license agreement also contains a few "Easter eggs", including a free license of the vendor's state-of-the-art and very versatile portal software.

The company - some folks at the IT department - discovers the Easter-egg with the portal software. Like boys with toys, they can't wait to open it and see what it does. So, they install the software on a server - "for evaluation purposes".

Sometime later, a business unit identifies a need for aggregating all the information and tools they need in one place. They've heard that some competitor does that by using a portal solution, and that a portal solution is just what they need too. So they turn to their IT Department, telling them they need a portal solution.

The boys at the IT department (not many girls around) get all fired up. They tell the business people that they in fact already have a state-of-the-art and very versatile portal software in their enterprise software portfolio. Since the ERP system is a corporate standard and is mandatory to be used by all business units, so must the portal software that came along with it. Besides, it is free of charge. In fact, it is already installed on a server. With an IT strategy having consolidation as a key component, introducing new enterprise software is simply out of the question (even if you could argue that the portal software is not officially introduced and used).

The business people understand they don't stand a chance against this strong setup. Besides, when looking at the slide decks that the vendor left them with, the portal software seems to be pretty much what they are looking for. So, they decide to skip the part of the process where they define their needs and requirements in more detail and start looking for different alternatives to evaluate and eventually purchase. Instead, they invest their money in an implementation project, seeing the promise of a short time to platform and quick and tangible business results.

The implementation project is executed and eventually a portal solution is launched. Soon enough it turns out that they did not really get what they expected, but to ensure return on their investment, they decide to force adoption with directives and policies. Maybe they will also work out some the kinks, possibly by purchasing a bunch of 3rd party software.

It does not take very long until the following has happened: The users are unhappy and frustrated and do whatever they can do to find reasons for not using the portal solution. The expected results are nowhere to be seen, and the portal solution quickly enters maintenance mode. It is just too expensive to develop it any further. But as some people have invested a lot of prestige and their entire careers in this thing, nothing can be done about the situation.

A couple of years later, the business people identify a need for aggregating all the information and tools they need in one place. This time, they don't need a portal solution. Obviously, portal solutions are not the recipe for success. Now success is spelled differently. Instead, they need a versatile platform with a lot of capabilities, from search to business intelligence.

So, they turn to their IT department...

It would be very interesting if you could list 5 faults you find in this story, and come up with 5 things to make it right.

(thanks @letterpress_se for inspiration)

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